Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
When was the last time you stopped to read this poem? I recently rediscovered it, and each time I read it, I love it a bit more. It so beautifully captures the continual, nomadic nature of life - constantly moving from place to place, stage to stage, emotion to emotion; the pauses between lending room for reflection, appreciation, and definition.
It’s the lifelong balancing act between motion and stillness, put to words.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I doubt many of my readers follow Bulgarian news. I mean, I don’t follow it much, but since returning from my stint in the Balkans, any headlines regarding Eastern Europe catch my eye a little more quickly.
If you have been watching the Bulgarian headlines, lately, you’ll know my old foe, Winter, has finally inspired a revolt of sorts: Remember how irritated I was that I had to pay more than $300 for heat that I never actually turned on in my apartment? (Had I turned on the heat, that winter, my bill would have been two or three times that.) Well, the rest of Bulgaria has finally had enough.
After mass protests against power companies charging exorbitant prices for heating and electricity, the Bulgarian government resigned. Media reported energy theft as an increasingly common crime in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, and apparently, police don’t see the movement as a high-priority problem.
I’m not at all surprised.
Bulgarians are calling for government regulation of these companies, and after seeing my own heating bill that winter, I can hardly blame them.
However, reading the comments on these energy-related articles, I realized that two years ago, I wouldn’t have understood the issue at all. Readers from the UK and the US scorned the Eastern Europeans for protesting these issues, for demanding government intervention. I’d have been right there with the capitalists, resisting increased government regulations, believing that Bulgarians should just suck it up and call for competition before regulation.
Seeing the country, however, and living within its frequently antiquated systems lent me compassion anew for the masses shivering in the shadow of their all-too-powerful government bureaucracies and industry monopolies.
I believe in capitalism, and in many ways, I still support a limited government. I think it’s worked well, so far, for the United States. But as for implementing a similar set-up in Bulgaria, years of on-paper success in the country’s relatively harmonious transition to Democracy stand in opposition to its still deplorable status in issues like this energy debacle.
I’m not saying Bulgaria should retreat to its socialist past to reform its present. I’m just saying, it’s easier said than done. And westerners might do well to remember that while we’ve lived in democratic and largely capitalistic societies for centuries, now, countries still struggling through the transition will be better served with constructive empathy than condescension.
No one form of government will best serve every culture and people. I don’t know how Bulgaria needs to fix this energy crisis. What I do know, is that we all can benefit from looking beyond the numbers and policies to see the people impacted by the situation. When you see the protestors’ families, bundled against the tendrils of winter chill creeping through their poorly insulated homes, unable to pay for the heat needed to warm their children, can you still call them freeloading malcontents?